Washington Bureau

08.29.13

Sudan Groups Hope New Envoy Will Reverse Obama’s ‘Disastrous’ Approach

On Wednesday, President Obama appointed his administration's third special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. The advocacy community is hoping that the third time is a charm for what they see as a failed strategy for responding to the ongoing conflicts in the region, which include the Darfur crisis and simmering tension between Sudan and South Sudan.

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Michael Onyiego / AP Photo

Donald Booth, the U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and a career foreign-service officer, met with Obama at the White House on Wednesday after being officially named the special envoy. He replaces Princeton Lyman, a career diplomat who stepped down in March. 

Lyman was widely credited for helping to facilitate the establishment of South Sudan as an independent nation in 2011 after a decades-long civil war. However, two years after South Sudan declared its independence on July 9, 2011, the region is still turbulent. Violence in both Sudan and South Sudan is raging, particularly in the regions of Jonglei, Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. Over 100,000 people have been driven from their homes so far this year in Jonglei alone.

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement last week calling on both Sudan and South Sudan to halt the violence and honor their agreements. But one advocacy group believes the U.S. government needs a more aggressive, pro-active approach, and they are hoping Booth will be the man to make that happen.

“Until now, President Obama has overseen a disastrous approach by his administration to the ongoing genocide in Sudan,” the group Act for Sudan told The Daily Beast in a statement. “This approach has failed to prevent the tragic loss of countless lives and the mass displacement and starvation of countless more innocent people. We urgently ask President Obama, together with Special Envoy Booth, to act now to protect innocent civilians from their genocidal government, or to face a stained legacy on genocide.”

Act for Sudan has a full-blown campaign on the topic entitled “Obama’s Stained Legacy,” and has begun publishing letters from genocide survivors written to Obama pleading for more help. 

“We hope that this appointment will signal the beginning of a new pro-democracy and civilian-protection-oriented policy on Sudan,” the group said.

In a statement, President Obama said that Booth would lead American efforts to mediate between the two countries, ensure the flow of oil, and bring the various conflicts to an end, but he gave no specifics on how that might be achieved.

“Much work remains, but we know that when the governments of Sudan and South Sudan show political courage and put the interests of their people first, peace and progress are possible,” Obama said.